Tag Archives: training

Getting to Know A Fitness Professional

Ok. I’m going to get personal with you. For those of you that know me on a personal level, most of it probably won’t come as much of a surprise. For those of you that don’t, I want to give you a chance to get to know me better. Why? Because after nearly 24 years as a fitness professional, I work in a profession that I still feel is highly misunderstood. So here we go.

What I Am Not

In my career, I’ve trained/worked with nearly 1,000 different people. Every single one of them was a positive learning experience. Many of my clientele I’ve had the privilege to work with for 10+ years. But even if we’ve only had a few opportunities of working together, I’m confident I’ve made a positive impact. In every contact opportunity I’ve had, the one thing I am not is a rep counter. Sure, reps are counted during sessions, but that’s not why I’m there contrary to some popular held beliefs. I am not a merciless hard ass that only works with those willing to push the extra mile either. My job is to push people out of their comfort zone in a reasonable, progressive manner. To build confidence in their in their abilities which in turn builds upon their self-confidence. That’s what proper training should be.

What I Am

For one, I’m a normal everyday guy. Yes, exercise is a passion of mine and it is my chosen profession, but I don’t think about it all the time. Exercise occurs for me without thought. More specifically, while I do plan exercise into my daily schedule, in some form it would still happen. It’s just who I am. I am a very compassionate person. I have certainly had my own challenges in life, but they’ve shaped me to who I am today. Every single person I meet is a challenge; a challenge to make better. I do not judge anyone as I don’t know what path they’ve followed before we met. I will admit, I don’t take excuses very well, but it is my job to determine why those excuses come forth. There’s always an underlying reason. Always. I work to find the best in everyone. It’s not always apparent to the individual but sometimes it’s what or where they’re not looking. I am amazed by the human body and all it’s capable of and more. When I work with clients, I’m observing their movement patterns – what’s good, what’s bad, what we can improve, etc. While form is certainly important during exercise, it is important not to be short sighted because everyone is different and unique. No one exercise is perfect for everyone. Modifications are not only necessary but a must. I am truly grateful for what this profession has provided for me: a comfortable way of life; the vast networks of contacts I’ve met; the incredible people I’ve not only had the chance to work with, but their trust in me. Most of all, the fact that I look forward to everyday of “work”. Sure, there are days that are some what more challenging or lengthy, but when it is all said and done, I wouldn’t change a thing.

A Few Other Tidbits

I am a fitness professional and teach the importance and value of a healthy diet, but I am a true foodie. And by foodie I mean eating at exquisite restaurants, sampling “unhealthy” items, enjoying all the glorious food on this planet! My Italian heritage probably has something to do with that. I am a coffee junkie. Every morning with cream and sugar. I don’t drink it to wake up. I drink it because I enjoy it. I drink, prefer loud, hard rock music, and I am a die hard Eagles and Flyers fan. I’d rather ride my bike 100 miles before running another marathon. At the end of the week, the gloves come off and I indulge in whatever the indulgence is that week. And why not? We’re only given this one life. The fact that you skipped on the potatoes indicates more of a bad relationship with food than a commitment to a silly diet. Eat the potatoes, eat the cake, and keep moving forward. If you spend too much time thinking about what you should have or could have done, you’re wasting time. Establish the balance that works best for YOU. No book or guru is going to help you there, I promise.

That’s me!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

What’s Killing Your Progress

You did it! You started working out; joined a gym; committed to a healthier lifestyle. You’re proud of yourself….except, you have nothing to show for it. May be you’re feeling better, clothes are fitting less snuggly, perhaps even you dropped a couple pounds. But you want more. It’s not enough. You put in the time but still have little to show for it. What gives? Exercise, while it’s a simple thing, causes more heartache and frustration for those looking towards it to be a Holy Grail of sorts. Well, I can tell you that is not but that doesn’t mean it’s bad either. Exercise is good and with a better mindset and preparation, it should never frustrate you. Following are several little things that you may be doing that are killing or at least slowing your process:

1. Your mindset stinks. I’m exercising so I’m “entitled” to results. NO! That mindset stinks. Simply exercising only guarantees one thing – may be a little sweat. You need to work. You need to apply yourself. You need a goal, something to drive you.
2. You don’t have a goal. Simple yet overlooked by many. It needs to be specific, not general. It needs to be the light of every workout. Otherwise you’re spinning wheels to no where.
3. You keep doing the same thing(s). The definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting a different result. Exercise is a stress, albeit a good stress. When you begin to exercise, your body adapts to the stress and you see and feel a result. But after a while, that stress needs to change or you’ll stop changing.
4. You don’t respect exercise. That’s right! As Rodney Dangerfield use to say, “I get no respect”. So what do I mean when I say respect the exercise? Know what you’re doing and why. Don’t “go through the motions”. The yield is always zero and for those who think something is better than nothing, they’re not respecting the power of what exercise can do for them.
5. You view exercise as a hobby and not a task. I’m all for people really enjoying their exercise like it’s a hobby but at its root level it’s work. That’s why it’s called working out. Brushing your teeth is not a hobby; it’s a task. Exercising needs to be like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you need to do. And a hobby can too easily be pushed aside.
6. You don’t fuel properly. I can’t tell you the number of times in my career when a client came to a session under nourished. Exercise is a physical activity, hence you need to fuel for the activity. Fat stores don’t release on their own. A body working with proper nourishment however will ignite a furnace in the body and one that will allow you to get the full benefit of the session.
7. You ignore sleep. Sleep is by far the most underrated component of a healthy lifestyle. The body needs rest, otherwise it’s burning on fumes. Trying to fit in the daily activities with exercise with poor sleeping patterns and something is going to give.
8. You think you know it all. Trust me. 23 years as a fitness professional and I still don’t know it all. There’s always something more to learn and more to try. If what you’re doing is not working, you don’t know it all. Be smart enough to admit that fault. No one is going to judge you.
9. You’re willing to push but not willing to stop/slow down. This is a common phenomenon with those wanting “quick fix” fitness. They want it now when in reality they’ll only end up disappointed now. The mentality of just pushing/working harder inevitably leads to exercise injury or worse, cessation.
10. You compare yourself too much to others. This is so unfair to you and the person your comparing yourself to. Why? Most likely, you know nothing about them and they know nothing about you. Two different people working towards two different goals. It’s one thing to work with or consult with someone who can help you. It’s something else to mirror someone not knowing their current path.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

5 Tips to Getting More Out of Your Workout

img_0537You did it! You made the decision to work out; put the time aside; bought new gear; made a commitment to better yourself; ready to workout. Only thing is, this scenario constantly repeats itself and yields the same result – nothing. Isn’t it enough to just show up? The answer is unequivocally NO but that’s for another discussion another time. Let’s say though that you are committed and exercise is something you do fairly regularly yet you are still not getting the results you were looking for. Without getting into a discussion of how other considerations like nutrition, stress, sleep, etc. affect your goal outcomes, let’s first take a look to see how you could be getting more out of your workout.

Don’t Go In Cold. I will confess that I was very guilty of this in my younger, indestructible years. Go to the gym and get right into working out – may be a couple of lame stretches but hardly preparing myself for the workout. Some will question why a warm-up is even necessary or what exactly counts as a warm-up. There is nothing more to understand other than it is what your body needs. Exercise is a physical stress, but a good stress or eustress. Whatever it is you do for exercise, it is going to be something different than what you do on a daily basis. (No, household chores do not count as exercise.) The body, specifically the heart, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin…do I go on…needs to be better prepared neurologically and physically to go from 0 to 60 (or whatever speed you are moving it) to handle the new stress they are about to encounter. Dynamic movements (they used to be called calisthenics) are best followed by simply getting the body moving such as light walking or cycling. Stretching is not warming up and not something you should do as it has been shown to actually be a hindrance to physical activity. More on that later. Like warming up a car before driving it away, your body will respond better to what you have planned when it is primed to go.

Fuel Up. Most would agree that they would never take a road trip without properly fueling their car yet they will get a workout in, which requires some energy, without properly fueling themselves. Chances are that if your workout fueling plan is bad your nutrition in general is most likely not that good either. A workout doesn’t require a major meal but it does necessitate a little boost if the plan is to actually workout. Muscles store energy locally in the form of glycogen which can be broken down into glucose when called upon to be used as fuel. But as the time or intensity of the workout progresses, more energy may be required and NO that energy is not quickly made available by stored fat either. The general rule of thumb is to provide some energy (calories) from either a carbohydrate and/or protein no less than 45 minutes prior to exercise. Your body will thank you for it and you will reap the rewards of the workout you actually made time for.

Whatever You Avoid, Go After It. One of the many lessons I’ve learned and later appreciated in this life is that your hardest teachers are usually the best. Same can be said about exercise. Most have a favorite exercise and most definitely they also have an exercise(s) they loathe or even hate. In my experience, the hate comes from the hard and the hard is what makes the exercise great. Case in point, big exercises that train the legs. Training the legs (with the hips representing 2/3 of the muscle mass in the body) is hard when done correctly. Large muscle groups need more blood, which means a higher hear rate, which means labored breathing, which means searing discomfort (I’ll refrain from saying pain here), etc. When trained properly, the legs/hips create more of a stimulus to change (increase muscle, decreased body fat, etc.)than any muscle group in the body. So squat, deadlift, lunge, press, and their many variations and use actual resistance. Attack all exercises within reason at some point to challenge not only the physical but the mental as well.

Stop Wasting Time on What Has Been Unproven to Work. No matter what gym or health club I have worked or visited the view is always the same. People walking aimlessly doing their “cardio” while watching TV; boys lifting weights but spending more time looking at themselves then actually working; girls picking up little weights trying to “tone” their arms; both sexes wrecking themselves working abs ; etc. Here’s a reminder. Unless you’ve got plenty of time, doing cardio while watching TV will take 2-3 hours to see some results. Intensity has a lot to do with it. Unless you are training to be a strongman, rest intervals between sets of weights should be short. The longer you take, the more time that is wasted into actually stressing the muscle to change. Little weights cause no change. If you want physical change, you have to lift a resistance that makes the muscles actually “work”. All the abdominal exercises in the world will not, I repeat, WILL NOT magically burn the layer of body fat between your skin and the abdominal muscle underneath. You’d be better off spending as much time working harder in all aspects including and most importantly, paying attention to your diet.

Take Care of Your Body. If you abuse your body in and out of the gym, there is no nutrition plan, workout plan, or supplement that is going to make wrong right. Listen to it when it is trying to tell you something is wrong and don’t fall into the trap of thinking “well I use to be able to do this.” Stretch muscles to alleviate tightnesses and improve range of motion AFTER a workout. Don’t get caught up in trendy workout plans and gimmicky programs. If you’re still not sure on what to do, seek the help of a professional. (That does not include celebrity trainer endorsements or YouTube.) Most of all, make your workout unique to your goals, not someone else’s. Finally, never under estimate the power of sleep. It could be the deal breaker if all pistons are firing but your sleep patterns are erratic at best.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Age is No Excuse

downloadsaWith the Olympic Summer Games winding down, one thing’s for sure I’ll get a better night’s sleep getting to bed at a more reasonable hour. It’s such a fantastic time to not only cheer on our country, but to see the level of competition among the athletes who for the most part are forgotten until perhaps the Summer Games resume in four years. They work hard, train tirelessly, and make no excuse for a chance at winning an Olympic Gold in their chosen craft. One aspect I pay more attention to now is the age of some of the top level competitors who certainly make no excuse that their age is somewhat of a hindrance. Most of the naysayers would say they’re too old or they should act their age to which they valiantly show the proverbial finger by competing and sometimes even winning.

It Always Comes Down to Thoughts and Choices

News flash: you’ve been aging since the day you were born. Today you’re older than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year. A 20 year old is old to a 6 year old; a 43 year old is old to a 30 year old. Age is a chronological measure of the distance you’ve made it in this life. Old is a relative labeling of who and where you are as a person, or at least what you think that is. Age is an indisputable measurement; old is a subjective state of mind. One’s age doesn’t determine what they can and can’t do based on how old they think they are or chose to be labeled. So it all comes down to if you think you’re old, then old you must be. But you need to really think twice about passing judgement on someone else your age, perhaps older, who refuses to use age an excuse to keep them doing the things they want to do when no one wants to expect or believe that they can.

The Biological Facts

There are those that will always say, “you just wait until you get to be my age” triumphantly waving the flag as if they accomplished something great. Greatness in life shouldn’t be measured by the number of years in one’s life, but the life in those years. There are physiologic process at work that change for everyone as we chronologically age: decreased muscle mass; decreased bone density, decreased flexibility, greater skin elasticity, etc. But never should they be used as scapegoats to stop moving/living. Then there’s the excuse of having no energy or too stiff to move. Not rocket science here, but most if not all of these symptoms can be reversed with regular physical activity, not necessarily competing at high levels of fitness. Physical movement is not only a necessity of a healthy life, it is what keeps others moving and others sitting and waiting.

A Few Age-Defying Olympic Champions

 As a fitness professional for close to 22 years, I’ve had the fabulous and fortunate opportunity to work with clients of all ages, even those most would think are too old to have a trainer or be in the gym. Never, not once did that ever stop them from always putting their best foot forward. Instead, they’ve become some of my better clients; completely coachable, hard working individuals with nothing to prove only that they can. But not all “old” people have white or no hair. Some are currently competing in these current Olympic Games and defying age as a barrier to their success.

  • Oksana Chusovitina: at 41 years young and five feet tall,, she is the oldest Olympic female gymnast in history, competing in her seventh Summer Games.
  • Kristin Armstrong: U.S. Cyclist, who just a day before her 43rd birthday won her third consecutive gold medal in women’s time trial. She’s the oldest female cycling medalist of all time.
  • Julie Broughamm: a 62 year old equestrian who actually just competed in her first Olympics in Rio.

As previously stated, one does not have to compete in the Olympics to prove age is but a number. I’ve made it a point to collect stories of other examples of age defying logic and shared with my followers on my Facebook Business Page. They’re all worth the time to watch, listen, and or read. Enjoy!

  • The Iron Nun – my most recent favorite featured in an ad for Nike. Here’s also an interview with her. Makes you just want to hug her.
  • Ernestine Shepherd – at 80 years old, the world’s oldest bodybuilder. Her story behind how she became what she is touching.
  • Random video of a gentleman squatting what appears to be 405lbs!
  • Shirley Webb – an 80 year old grandmother deadlifting 225lbs!
  • Lan Yin Tsai Lan Yin Tsai – a 90 year old woman who rides the 2 day, 75 mile option of the MS City to Shore I participate in every year. I’ve even had the privilege to ride by her several times over the years. She rides her bike in a dress and heels to boot!
  • Ida Keeling – a 100 year old (that’s not a typo) woman who runs regularly and even competed in the Penn Relays this past spring in Philadelphia. By the way, she’s the reigning national champion in the 60m dash, 95-99 age group.
  • Kay and Joe O’Regan – an octogenarian couple who race marathons together and celebrated their 57 wedding anniversary by running the Cork City Marathon one final time, holding hands as they crossed the finish line,

If you’re still not inspired and convinced that age is but a number, you have missed the whole point of taking care of what you got and doing the best you can with it. Proper nutrition and exercise are a key component to that but if your state of mind is just content with where it is, then that’s just a shame.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and do better.

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 9 – The Truth About Lactic Acid

(This is Part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

download (2)In a previous post I discussed side stitches – possible causes and treatments; a thorn in the side (no pun intended) of physically active individuals. Like many things in fitness, side stitches can be lumped into the bag of fitness maladies and myths. Another one that comes to mind as it is often completely misunderstood and generally has a negative connotation to it is lactic acid. Let’s take a better look at this often misinterpreted and misconstrued bodily chemical.

A Bad Rap

Lactic acid and its negatively-charged ionic form lactate have had a long association with fatigue during exercise. During the course of a prolonged and intense effort, muscles lose power. The growing fatigue with exercise can be resisted for a while through great concentration and mental effort, but eventually everyone succumbs to fatigue. Exercise physiologists for the greater part of the twentieth century studied the theorized reason for muscular fatigue during exercise is accumulation of a compound called lactic acid. Once more research and understanding the metabolism of exercise was done it was found that the body does not actually produce lactic acid, just the negatively charged ion lactate. In the 2000s, a prominent biochemist and researcher in the field, Roger Robergs, took a hard look at each step in the metabolic process that turns sugars (glucose in the blood and glycogen in the muscles) into energy when you exercise to better understand and clear the air and bad reputation of lactic acid.

A Little Physiology

Energy is created in the body by one of two pathways; aerobically and anaerobically. Aerobic respiration turns sugars into fuel using oxygen, and doesn’t have any harmful byproducts. Anaerobic respiration, which doesn’t kick in until you’re operating past your aerobic limit, can generate energy from sugar without using oxygen, but results in waste products—lactate and acid. Robergs discovered however that anaerobic respiration functions all the time, turning sugar into a compound called pyruvate, releasing some hydrogen ions at the same time. Aerobic respiration works to clean up the pyruvate, using oxygen to burn the pyruvate into carbon dioxide and water, which can be exhaled. The aerobic process also consumes acid (hydrogen ions), which slows down the buildup of acid in the muscles. The generation of lactate is actually a side reaction: when excess pyruvate and acid start to accumulate (when the rate of anaerobic respiration overtakes the aerobic system’s ability to remove the waste), the body uses a pyruvate molecule and a hydrogen ion to create lactate, another way in which it can slow down the buildup of acid. The lactate can also be shuttled out of the muscles, into the blood, and burned in other areas of the body for more energy. Phew! Now while all that science may or not mean anything to you, here are the practical implications.

  • A better understanding of the biology of fatigue only reinforces the concept that your aerobic strength is a huge factor in your physical performance. While your body has various mechanisms to buffer the acid produced during high-intensity efforts, all of these are limited. Only increasing your aerobic fitness will allow you to substantially increase how far and how hard you can go.
  • Additionally, recognizing that lactate has a greater role than simply causing fatigue allows you to better understand the place of high-intensity workouts at or faster than the “lactate threshold.” These workouts aren’t just working hard for the sake of working hard—they train your body to produce, process, and burn lactate (as a fuel!) at a greater rate.
  • There is still the inescapable fatigue that comes with acid overload. There really is no getting around it the harder you work. You can include high intensity interval workouts to improve your ability to buffer the acid produced when training or competing at high intensities, but everyone is ultimately limited by the accumulating acidity in their muscles and blood.
  • Your body certainly produces acid during exercise, and it produces lactate as well. But it’s the former, not the latter, that’s the main culprit for fatigue.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight
Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness
Day 7 – Which Are You – A Chronic Dieter or A Healthy Eater?
Day 8 – What Happens When You Skip Your Workout

Lessons To Be Learned From Watching The Olympics

skiierI’ll confess, I’m not as big a fan of the Winter Olympics as I am the Summer Olympics, but any chance to see the best in the world compete in their sport is still captivating to watch. I’m also not a fan of the events in which points are awarded objectively rather than decided by points or time. To have years and months of work graded on a score sheet rather than something that is measureable and concrete is unjust but that’s for another discussion. Everyone has their reasons for watching (or not) the Olympic Games but there is without a doubt some very powerful lessons to be learned and unlike reality TV (which I am also not a fan of), has some real world relevance.

Commitment

The level of commitment every one of the athletes has to their craft is unfathomable. Unlike professional athletes who are outrageously paid to play their respective sport (and sometimes cry poor about), most of the athletes competing in the Olympics are still in school, have families, or work jobs on top of the countless hours spent perfecting their skills and chasing their dream. Can you say you have a similar commitment to your dreams and goals?

Dedication

Most of the Olympians participate and excel at a sport or game that hardly gets any of the attention or notoriety of what we recognize as sports. Imagine doing or participating in something that gets little to no accolades or press coverage. With may be the exception of being a name thrown around for a few weeks every four years, perhaps eight to twelve if you’re lucky, there is little praise for the day to day work required. The same can be said about your fitness – it’s about being dedicated to achieving a thankless gift and working at it without so much as an expectation of acknowledgement from no one.

Preparation

There is simply no excuse for not being properly prepared as the Olympic athletes are honing their skills daily as their competition is doing the exact same thing. Do you do the little things daily (a lifestyle) for your health success or do you piece mail it from day to day in the hopes that it will be sufficient towards your success?

Expectation

There’s not a single competitor that heads to the Olympics thinking they don’t have a shot. Sure, there’s always going to be someone who’s faster, stronger, scores higher, but they don’t go in thinking they don’t deserve to be there. Are your health and fitness expectations realistic or do you just hope things will work out for the best?

Perseverance

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to get a medal and in some events that could mean tenths of a second. But does mean they quit or beat themselves up for not reaching the pinnacle? Absolutely not. Sure, it can be upsetting and emotional but they keep going – some having a chance in another event in the same Games or coming back to compete again. Regardless, their desire to achieve their goal makes no excuse for feeling bad about themselves or quitting all together. As with your fitness, some days are just going to be hard and not the best. Tomorrow is another day and it’s all about learning and moving on than wallowing and complaining.

I hope you are enjoying the Games but even if you’re not, know that it is more than just athletes competing for National pride and personal excellence. It’s all about working towards a concrete goal; working when no one else is looking. Quite simply, it’s about training smart, eating well, and just being better.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

6 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 12

(This is the final segment of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

0709-a-wh-fitness-1847One of my favorite sayings is “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” I find it both motivating and powerful at the same time and it can apply to anyone in their own unique way. For me, I have always come to use it with regards to my personal health and fitness development. I seek the challenge both daily and consistently pushing the limits of my own capacity. But exercise is something that is good for me regardless and for that I will always continue to remain physically active. For others, just getting that message is tough and for those that do they often go about it blindly doing something they know is good for them without any sense of purpose. A lot of people will say “any exercise is good exercise” to which I inevitably reply, “You can always be better.” So if you’re of the fortunate number of people who not just understand the value of exercise but attempt to live it fully, here are 6 common mistakes to avoid along the journey.

  1. Stop Doing Exercise You Don’t Enjoy. And no, the excuse “but I don’t like exercise” doesn’t count here. Media and pop culture all too often and unfortunately influence what types of workouts are not only “hot” and the “thing to do” but generally have little to no scientific data to support their validity. Hence, you get a bunch of people doing something that they either 1) really don’t enjoy, or 2) get injured in the process and are back to square one disliking exercise in the first place. Find something that is not only enjoyable and repeatable, but has real value in benefiting your fitness.
  2. Doing Too Much Exercise. A difficult concept to understand because after all, exercise is a good thing, so more must be better. Wrong. In a few short weeks, thousands will hit the gym to begin working out for the first time or to get re-started (again) and the number one mistake they will make is trying to erase weeks, months, perhaps years of bad health decisions by “crash training” themselves into the ground. Too much exercise can be just as counterproductive as not exercising at all. For exercise to be effective, remember the three “P’s”: have a plan for why you’re working out and what you’re doing; have a proper progression in the amount and type of exercise you choose; have passion for what you’re doing.
  3. Not Preparing Properly. Exercise is properly defined as any physical activity you do that is above and beyond anything you would normally do on a daily basis. Therefore, preparing for a workout should take just as much a priority in the workout as the regimen itself. It is often neglected or copied blindly by doing what was always done. See my post on the importance of the warm up from earlier last month to discover the how and why it is supposed to be done.
  4. Exercising Through Injuries. Injuries happen and if you do anything long enough you’re bound to get hurt. Accidents and injuries happen and as tough as it may be at first, it’s always best to cut back and give the injury time to heal, rather than push through the pain. The alternative is developing a nagging injury that never goes away.
  5. Thinking Cardio and Strength Training Are To Be Separated. Most people have come up believing that cardio workouts were to be separate from strength training workouts. This line of thinking became so popularized that people started to forget that cardio is simply cardiovascular training. Cardiovascular training can also be accomplished at the same time as strength training. You just need to push the intensity of your workouts.
  6. Working Out Your Ego Instead of Your Muscles. A whole chain of fitness centers of which I will not name grew its entire brand from this. If you go to the gym to compete with others, you’ve already lost the point of getting exercise. In addition, if you go to the gym and are worried about what others think of you and what you’re doing, there’s a deeper issue there than simply not getting enough exercise. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Work out with a weight that allows you to use proper form and move through the full range of motion. And if it’s an audience you crave, there are alternatives to stoke the ego.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

In case you missed any of the 12 Days of Fitness – 2013, here’s a convenient link to each day:

Day #1 – Holiday Fitness Survival Guide
Day #2 – 6 Lies The Food Industry Is Feeding You
Day #3 – Can I Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?
Day #4 – The 10 Best Fitness Apps
Day #5 – Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer
Day #6 – 7 Reasons To Stop Drinking Diet Soda
Day #7 – Is Cardio Necessary To Lose Weight?
Day #8 – Are Your Eyes Bigger Than Your Stomach?
Day #9 –  Successful Resistance Training 101
Day #10 – Can You Please Pass the Salt?
Day #11 – Still Good Enough For Us To Eat?

Building Your Birthday Suit

Online_Retailer_of_Bespoke_Custom_Made_Suits_Shirts_Trousers_and_Skirts_for_Men_and_Women_67778_imageFirst impressions are big for you never get another chance. Whether it’s an interview for a new job or a hot date, making a good first impression is paramount. Before a word can even be spoken, the first impression weighs heavily on your physical presentation: how you carry yourself, how professional and well-kept you present yourself, and of course what you’re wearing. Now, far be it from me to offer advice on what one should wear to an interview or first date (I’ll leave that to the

The Center Piece – the “Suit”

For the analogy I want to draw here, let’s just imagine putting together a professional ensemble that begins with a great suit. The suit is what makes the biggest impression – its color, its shape and contours, how well-fitted it is, etc. It becomes the center piece of the outfit. When it comes to your physique, the “suit” is comprised of the major muscle groups: chest, back, legs, and core musculature. They are the most important because they make up over 85% of your body. Whether you want to improve, define, or strengthen your physique, it’s vital to train these muscle groups as the focus of your workouts. In terms of musculature, 2/3 of all the muscle mass in the body is below the waist. If you want to make overall changes to the body, you have to work the legs. The next largest muscle group is the back – big, powerful muscles that not only strengthen and support the spine, but are key in all pulling motions. Next are the chest muscles. Whether you’re a man or a woman, the “pecs” are also important to posture as they balance the forces of the back muscles and are involved in most if not all pressing motions. And finally, the core musculature is important for posture, balance, strength, and stability of the spine, and most important is the link between the larger muscle groups of the lower body and the muscles of the upper body. Just as with selecting the perfect suit, your workouts should focus first on the body’s center piece working the larger muscle groups of the body. Then you can focus on the finishing touches.

The Extras – the “Accessories”

Once a great suit is selected, then comes the accessories which will often take a great suit to an awesome suit. Shoes, belts, jewelry, ties, scarfs, etc. can certainly raise the level of the suit, but in and of themselves don’t’ make the suit. Same with your physique. The “accessories” of the body are the arms, shoulders, calfs, and even some of the core musculature, primarily the superficial muscles of the abdominals. Often times when someone says they want a stronger or leaner physique yet see diminishing returns, they focus too much time on developing the “accessories” and do not devote the time to fully develop and build the “suit”. Training the arms only or doing abdominal exercises until you’re blue in the face with little attention paid to the bigger picture will lead to frustration and diminished returns. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a nice set of arms and good looking abs, but you’d be better served focusing your energy on the large muscle groups first (the suit) and then complimenting that training by hitting the extras (the accessories).

Fashion 101

Proper training has more to do with what you do than how much you do. Spending whole exercise sessions on just training the “accessories” will not produce the same yield as training the “suit”. When you train the “suit”, the “accessories” get worked as well and if you train them properly and intensely enough, they won’t need a special training session all their own. Focus your training on the “suit”, compliment with the “accessories”, and you’ll have one fine looking birthday suit!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Train Smarter, Not Harder

Most people would agree that exercise is a very good thing. Whether we are getting enough or any at all is another topic of discussion.  But if exercise is good then more must be better, right? Wrong! Too much of anything is no good and unfortunately there are those who think the same rules don’t apply when it comes to exercise. Perhaps they feel that they can shed those extra pounds by punishing their body repeatedly and for long periods of time. Or that they can defy all the laws of physiology and build tons of muscle and strength in just a few short weeks.  The fact is, in the end the body wins out and the reason why is because it is designed to do one thing despite what you try to throw at it at that’s to survive.

The Good and the Bad

Stress is usually a word associated with something negative, but not all stress is bad stress. Stress can be easily defined as any stimulus that challenges the body. For this discussion, exercise is a stress that is more appropriately defined as a eustress, or a stressor that causes a positive, healthful response. But as previously stated, just because it’s good doesn’t mean more must be better. The body can only handle so much stress at a time: physically, emotionally and spiritually, before it begins to break down and revert to survival mechanisms. When that happens, the once positive effects of the eustress become counterproductive, almost reversing the direction of the desired outcome. With too much exercise, often referred to as overtraining, that scenario manifests itself as muscle and/or joint pain, sluggishness, sleepiness, decreased appetite, decreased performance, decreased immunity, and worse, potential injury. While the “no pain, no gain” mentality may be a thing of the past, there is always a popular trend or fad that demonstrates dangerous, yet cool looking exercise as the best way to get fit. As a result of clever marketing, thousands buy into it only to discover in the end it’s not good for the long haul.

What is Too Much!

The human body and its capabilities have long been sought after by man. The Olympics, strongman contests, ultra endurance events, etc. – just when we thought the potential could be reached, it gets surpassed again. Is there a limit? When is enough, enough? That’s not a question the average exerciser is qualified to nor could answer – intelligently, that is. Physical exericse is an activity; an activity that can be performed and manipulated to achieve a desired result. Contrary to popular belief, just saying that you exercise has little to do with are you successfully utilizing it to achieve your goal. Case in point, “I go to the gym about 2-3 days per week but I haven’t seen any results.” The next statement usually goes something like this: ‘I’m going to double up my workouts, may be do a few two-a-days like I did back in high school, and then I’m going to go everyday for a few weeks.  That should get me back into shape.” Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The net result? An even more frustrated exerciser who is now no closer to the desired goal because they didn’t really examine the true problems that exist and perhaps are now dealing with the negative effects sidelining them from exercising at all. The simple notion of just doing more exercise, harder will yield almost the same result of doing no exercise at all – NOTHING!

Time to Drop the Hammer

General George Patton said it best. “A good plan, violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” When you understand the value and benefit of exercise, not just simply doing it to do it, you will appreciate and respect the power that smart exercising can have. This includes planning your workouts; building in proper progressions (crawl before you can walk); taking care of the little things such as muscle tightness and joint mobility; addressing the “intangibles” such as diet and rest. It will lead to greater success and your true potential can be realized. In athletics, professional are called professionals because they have developed the proper progression and manipulation of the variables they can control to a level that puts them above the rest.  When you understand that you also have that same potential, you too will be the best that you can be.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

 

 

Bodybuilding Vs. Weight Training

I suppose I’m at that stage in my life now where it seems almost weekly where celebrities, athletes, and other famous people I grew up with are now starting to leave us. A little over  a month ago a man that most people outside of the strength training and bodybuilding worlds would not even recognize passed away without nearly as much the attention as the “Godfather of Fitness” Jack LaLanne had when he passed in 2011. His name is Joe Weider and chances are you’ve seen, read, or at the very least heard of his publications (Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Shape magazines among others); his international bodybuilding contests (Mr. Olympia, Ms. Olympia, etc.); his lines of strength equipment and supplements.  But what people aren’t aware of is Joe Weider is credited with not only bringing the sport of bodybuilding to worldwide attention, but he is the one, if not, the only reason we have Arnold Schwarzenegger here in America.

My First Weight Set

My early lifting days involved using the kind of things that are almost en vogue today: cinder blocks, railroad ties, clothes line props, tree branches, monkey bars, small tires, etc. But once I got serious, my first weight set was a Joe Weider starter set. The barbell was metal but clothed in plastic. The plates were also plastic but filled with sand (other sets were filled with concrete). The bench was small, but adequate and had a built in rack with a leg extension/leg curl attachment. It was my first gym in the basement of my house and as I progressed into puberty, me and one of my best friends in life lifted in his mom’s garage with multiple Joe Weider sets.  What was my goal back then? To be big and muscular of course.  While I never had aspirations to join a bodybuilding contest, I liked the way I felt, the way I looked, and the fun I had lifting weights. As it turns out, fitness became my career and I still play with weights almost everyday – but I’ve advanced from the concrete filled plastic plates.

Beyond Bodybuilding

Over the years, I’ve evolved the way I train and the way I think.  The bodybuilding style of training moved to more fitness style training to more athletic style training to more functional style training and so forth.  I went from admiring the obviously overgrown and overblown physiques in the magazines to affectionately  calling Muscle and Fitness magazine Muscle and Fiction due to the extraordinary amounts of articles and advertising all funded by the supplement companies. With age came wisdom and with experience came a better way to accomplish the same task with less. As a fitness professional, I’ve seen numerous times over the years people who approach weight lifting like a bodybuilder, yet one – they don’t want to be a bodybuilder;  two, they don’t want to adopt the lifestyle of a bodybuilder; 3 – despite all that, they still expect to look like a bodybuilder. Not going to happen.  But is there a difference between bodybuilding and weightlifting?

Beyond The Science

With bodybuilding, the goal is simple – increased muscular size (hypertrophy) and definition. With weight training, you can also certainly accomplish both goals but the difference lies in the approach.  A bodybuilder will attack or train a specific muscle group (i.e.chest) or two during a training session in as many ways as possible to get as much dedicated work to the muscle group(s) as possible. An everyday exerciser going to the gym to lift weights is not going to train with the intensity or training protocol that a bodybuilder is going to train with nor should they. Why? Because they don’t want to be a bodybuilder.  They may think they do but they really don’t. Beyond the discipline of the weight room comes the discipline to the strict eating regimen and while I won’t discuss the pharmacology of bodybuilding for the purpose of this article, bodybuilding is an activity, like training for a marathon, that has specific protocols and techniques. Same holds true whether male or female.

A large majority of women still shy away from the weight training thinking it will make them look like a bodybuilder.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. Number one, most women don’t have enough naturally circulating testosterone. Number two, there isn’t enough protein that can be healthfully ingested to create such an anabolic environment in the body. Number three, most women are not going to lift the sheer amount of weight repeatedly to create such mass. Weightlifting, resistance training, or weight training, no matter what you want to call it, has a benefit to us all.

My point is this.  Weight training is a powerful, wonderful exercise with amazing benefits for both sexes. If you don’t want to be a bodybuilder, then don’t train like one.  Lift heavy, lift hard, and lift with intensity but lift with a purpose. And to Mr.Joe Weider, thank you for your ingenuity and contributions to our health and fitness community.  We will continue to carry on strong.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better